His enduring reputation rests rather on his coin and medal portraits of Queen Victoria. They begin early, for the queen first sat for him as a young princess of 13 and he produced a medallic portrait for her 18th birthday. This was followed by a portrait in lower relief for the new queen’s coins, which began to find their way into circulation in the summer of 1838, and by a diademed portrait for a medal commemorating the queen’s visit to the City of London in November 1837, a portrait better remembered now as that used for the Penny Black stamps of 1840.
In 1847 came a crowned bust in fashionable Gothic style, adopted for the proof crowns of that year and, later, for the controversial florins of 1849. About the same time another diademed portrait was prepared for campaign and general service medals, and finally, shortly before his death, he completed conjoined portraits of the queen and the prince consort for Great Exhibition medals of 1851.
Of these portraits, that approved for the coinage in 1838 undoubtedly takes pride of place. Wyon was clearly inspired by his admiration of the neo-classical style of his mentor John Flaxman to create an uncluttered and well-balanced portrait. Now familiarly known as the Young Head, its beautiful features flattered the queen, who was a grandmother in her late 60s before she allowed it to disappear from the coinage. ‘You always represent me favourably’, she is reported to have told Wyon, while he, for his part, is said to have found the queen an excellent sitter.